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f/k/a archives . . . real opinions & real haiku

March 14, 2005

romolo and thin ice

Filed under: pre-06-2006 — David Giacalone @ 3:26 pm

potluck from Old Dorp*

Remember Romolo Versaci? He’s the Schenectady, NY, lawyer who sued Diane Richie, an unemployed widow with children, for defamation (seeking $100,000). Ms. Richie had referred to Romolo as a “so-called lawyer” on a local discussion website. (see our post, and the coverage and discussion at Pat Zollinger, the site’s administrator, was subpoenaed to be at court today (March 14, 2005), and she reports that the case was dismissed by visiting Judge Felix Catena of Montgomery County. Judge Catena apparently ruled that the term “so-called lawyer” is merely an opinion and protected speech. A Schenectady Gazette reporter was present, and I expect to have more details and be able to link to his story tomorrow. [see here for the follow-up post]

  • Pat tells me that Lawyer Versaci believes that there is plenty of caselaw supporting his complaint and he says he’ll appeal (giving any winnings to his church). I don’t know to whom Romolo is referring, but he was also quoted saying “a lawyer’s worst enemy is another lawyer.”

Sunshine Causes Thin Ice: Here’s another story from Schenectady, that I think is appropriate for Sunshine Week. Basically, I want to know the identity of the man who decided to take “a shortcut from Scotia” to Schenectady, by walking across the Mohawk River on Saturday afternoon. I guess he didn’t notice that the 1000 foot span of river looked at bit unstable — sort of like a snow-covered, ice-floe-junkyard. Unfortunately for the (I presume) young man, the last 30 feet or so of the River on the Schenectady side had no ice cover at all. Happily, though “A pedestrian in Riverside Park heard the man’s calls for help and phoned for emergency help. Fortunately, a crew of three firefighters were nearby and heard the call.”Firefighters pull man to safety after he falls into icy Mohawk,” (Gazette, at B3, March 13, 2005)

tiny check Deputy Fire Chief Robert Stanley “declined to name” the man. Well, I think we should know his identity. He recklessly caused the expenditure of city resources, and some risk for our firefighters. He also might be applying for a job (or wanting to marry someone’s daughter). While taking shortcuts can be a sign of efficiency, it can also be quite shortsighted.

where the man
fell in yesterday –
more thin ice

………………………. by dagosan

Speaking of crossing the Mohawk: The 2005 rescue of the ice-walking River-crosser (see above), which happened on the stretch of the River at the end of my block, reminded me of the history made, or almost made there. It made me realize that bad luck, bad judgment and aborted development projects existed here long before our little Metroplex Authority was formed (see, e.g., schmittle Italy).

The Mohawk is particularly treacherous in the section where I reside, especially when the ice is breaking up. (see “Bridging the Mohawk,” by J. Gara, J. Garver):

“An important crossing was the one from the Stockade to what is now the Village of Scotia, where a cable ferry once operated. This site would be the site of the first serious effort to bridge the river. Theodore Burr, a cousin to Aaron Burr, envisioned a suspension bridge at this relatively narrow point.

“Work began in the winter of 1794-95 to build a wooden cable on the ice and lift it onto piers before ice-out. Unfortunately, a thaw opened the river and destroyed the work. If successful, it would have been the first long bridge in the 13 colonies.

former Burr Bridge abutment at the end of Washington Ave., Schenectady Schenectady side . . Burr Bridge Abutment . . Scotia side former Burr Bridge abutment at Washington Ave. Scotia, NY

“In 1806, construction began on the Burr Bridge again only to have more setbacks due to ice. Again, workers took advantage of the frozen river only to have their pier scaffolding destroyed when the river ice opened up in mid-winter. Finally, in 1808 the wooden cabled suspension bridge was finally completed and the river between Schenectady and Scotia was spanned..” [It was 997 feet long.]

Twenty years later, the Schenectady-Scotia bridge was covered. Local lore [e.g., see the 6th Fun Fact at page 11, of the CBRE Capital Region Profile] says that it was the longest covered bridge in the Western Hemisphere. However, I have found no sources outside the Capital Region that confirm that assertion. Nothing is left of the Burr Bridge, except the abutments on each side of the River, at the end of Schenectady’s Washington Avenue and Scotia’s Washington Avenue. You’ll often find me sitting or standing on the Schenectady abutment, especially around sunset. (more info see Mohawk — Discovering the Valley of the Crystals,” by M. Paul Keesler, from North Country Books)

update (Jan. 14, 2009): For more on Schenectadians repeatedly falling through thin ice, see our post “schenectady slow learners on thin ice again,” about plows falling through Iroquois Lake.

JudgeBarnesS Yesterday’s Sunday Gazette had an interesting local angle on the killing of Judge Rowland Barnes (our post). Many who knew him spoke of his humor and comedic acting and singing. Well, James M. “Jamie” Bendall, a 33-year-old Atlanta lawyer who was born in a Schenectady suburb, worked with Judge Barnes on several of his dramatic ventures — including redoing the song A Man of Constant Sorrows,” which Barnes performed in a rendition about filing for bankruptcy. Bendall said Barnes “was a really wise and gentle judge with a terrific sense of humor.”

  • Jamie Bendall is the son of one of Schenectady’s most respected personal injury (and med-mal) attorneys, and he opened an Atlanta branch of Bendall & Mednick, where Jamie is also a personal injury lawyer. His love of comedy led Jamie to spend a couple years as a stand-up comedian, and he is now the owner of The Punchline, an Atlanta comedy club. (are you envious Evan?)
  • Bendall is also co-host of The Legal Edge, a three-hour talk show on station WGST. He expected that the show on Saturday (March 12) would center around the courthouse killings.

tiny check One last Schenectady blurb: I have not mentioned it before, but Tyrone M. Williams, the defendant on trial for allegedly driving the 18-wheeler in which 19 illegal immigrants were found dead in Harlingen, Texas, is from Schenectady. I have always thought that his alleged role in this tragedy was sufficiently different from others involved that singling him out for harsher punishment did not appear to be racially-motivated, as his counsel has argued.


* Schenectady was originally settled by the Dutch.  Probably because the word “Schenectady” is tough on headline writers and old typists, our City is often referred to by its nickname “Dorp” or “Old Dorp,” from the Dutch word for village or hamlet. I just learned from Encarta, that “dorp” is especially used in South Africa to refer to a village “perceived as backward or unappealing.”

in the owl’s opinion
every day
is long

useless me
useless weeds…
the cuckoo’s opinion

ISSA, translated by David G. Lanoue

1 Comment

  1. […] NY, on or near the abutment that once supported the Burr Bridge.  After a troubled start (chronicled irreverently by me in 2005), the 997-foot bridge was completed in 1808 and spanned the Mohawk River between […]

    Pingback by Stockade views from Scotia’s Washington Avenue « suns along the Mohawk — September 9, 2009 @ 11:46 pm

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